Clemson gained the commitment of 4-star safety R.J. Mickens this Spring Game weekend. Mickens hails from Southlake, Texas (Southlake Carroll HS) and stands 6-1, 188 pounds. He is the top safety of the class per the 247Sports Composite and the #42 player overall. Mickens chose Clemson over top competitor Ohio State, who held the early lead in his recruitment. He is one of roughly four takes in the defensive backfield during this cycle.
Mickens was a major victory on the trail for lead recruiters Mike Reed and Mickey Conn. Not only is he a top of the board prospect at his position, but is the first Tigers commitment from the state of Texas since J.C. Chalk in the 2016 class. The team has continuously tried to mine talent from Texas since and Mickens could represent a breakthrough in the talent rich state.
Mickens immediately becomes the highest ranked player in Clemson’s loaded 2020 class. His verified measurables include a 4.68 40-yard dash, a 4.22 shuttle, and a 35 inch vertical leap. His athleticism is very good, but he receives consistent praise for his technique and high football IQ. He is the son of former Texas A&M and NFL cornerback Ray Mickens which helps to explain his advanced development at the position. Mickens does possess the size and frame valued in a Venables defense and should have no issues physically transitioning to the college game. All of these traits combined with plus hands make Mickens the elite prospect he is.
You can watch his highlights below
Mickens represents the first high profile Safety take for Clemson in quite some time. While the 2019 class had the numbers and interesting bodies, it didn’t have the star power. Mickens is likely to slide a bit in the composite rankings, but I have him pegged around 75th overall and certainly top 100 in a loaded 2020 class. R.J. also represents the first major recruit for the staff from Texas. After trying and failing for multiple classes to land a prospect from the state, this is a serious accomplishment (I still believe that overall resources are better spent in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, and surprisingly California with Ngata, DJ and the Bosco connection). Spot recruiting nationally, however, is how you flex on the rest of college football and assert your dominance.
After the elite junior day this recruitment turned squarely in favor of Clemson. It was just a matter of time and Mickens taking some other visits. When he returned for a recent visit, and with Ohio State looking elsewhere to fill their numbers, the desire to secure one of Clemson’s slots expedited the process some.
R.J. Mickens father is former NFL player Ray Mickens and R.J.’s football acumen shows on the field. He is well schooled and understands the nuances of playing defensive back. He started at corner and has transitioned to Safety and could fill a Nickel roll for Clemson as well (the position his father played in the NFL). Southlake Carroll is a powerhouse Texas program and he has been coached well at the high school level.
Mickens doesn’t possess one elite physical trait, but is solid across the board. Good tackler, good hitter, decent speed and fluidity, and decent DB frame. His elite attributes at this point are his knowledge, instincts, and ball skills and hopefully those all translate to the college level. Regardless, with two Safeties graduating there will be ample opportunity for early playing time and Mickens can be a versatile piece for BV in the near future. He is definitely the type of player I can see earning the defensive coaches trust quickly.